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Dunsmuir council candidate Tasci wants to ‘get the city back on track’

Skye Kinkade
Mount Shasta Herald

Editor’s note: This story is one in a series of profiles about the four candidates for two seats on the Dunsmuir City Council in the Nov. 3 election. Other candidates include incumbents Dave Keisler, Bruch Deutsch and businesswoman Sandra Vaughan.

Ahmet Tasci

Entrepreneur and Cornerstone Café owner Ahmet Tasci said he believes Dunsmuir “can do better,” so he’s running for a seat on the city council “to get the city back on the right track.”

Tasci, 42, began visiting the Dunsmuir area in 2017 and bought the Cornerstone Café in 2018. After attending some council meetings, he became concerned that the city is not living within its means.

“The city has $1.5 million in annual revenues, yet constantly cuts or reduces services to the public,” he said, including the library and the parks and recreation district “in favor of dubious expenditures.”

Tasci pointed to the $85,000 subsidy for the city owned Mott Airport, which he believes should be self sustaining from hangar rents or other revenue obtained by using the facility for affordable housing or an industrial park.

“Also I believe that, with my finance and accounting background, I can make Dunsmuir’s economy blossom again,” Tasci said. “The city has great bones, but it has not had decent, hardworking political leadership.”

Tasci said he’s against the sales tax that the city put forward on the Nov. 3 ballot, calling it “a cruel increase” that would put the city’s sales tax at its highest in the city’s history.

Tasci said he has the experience needed to be an effective city councilor. He has an accounting degree from Turkey in business analysis and a finance degree from San Francisco State University, as well as a masters in industrial organization psychology from Golden Gate University.

“I have been trained to focus on solutions based on facts,” Tasci said. “I can challenge assumptions that are not based on evidence, and come up with workable solutions to Dunsmuir’s problems.”

Tasci has a wife, Kateryna, who was born in Ukraine and two sons, ages 4 and 6. 

He said he jumped at the chance to purchase the Cornerstone. 

“Dunsmuir has a very nice character as a nice little town,” he said. “I would not want to  miss the opportunity. (My family and I) love the town and want to see our new community prosper.”

Q&A with the candidate

Tasci answered the following questions via email. His answers are presented exactly as answered.

Q: What are your main goals if elected?

A: My short term goals are to review the city budget in detail and readjust the priorities in the $1.5 million budget so that needed public services such as the library and the parks and recreation swimming pool are returned to normal funding without  raising a cruel sales tax rate to the highest rate in Dunsmuir’s history. Simple cuts, like reducing or eliminating the subsidy to the Airport, and sharing some personnel and functions with neighboring cities during the pandemic, will get us through tough times without a tax increase and cutting needed public services. It takes some hard and creative thinking, but it can be done. We just need to do it and the voters can help me do it. 

My long term goal is to restore and improve Dunsmuir as a tourist and restaurant destination; establish an Art Festival and spur real estate development; increase affordable housing and foster new jobs at an industrial park developed on the surrounding unused acres at Mott Airport that the City already owns but does not use. The latter is an example of creative thinking that I believe will allow Dunsmuir to blossom after the pandemic passes. 

Q: Do you have any ideas to increase economic development in the city of Dunsmuir?

A: Well, I outlined these ideas in my discussion of my long term goals for the city, but to summarize my ideas for an economic rebirth of Dunsmuir, I would do the following:

1. Turn the airport property into a self sustaining enterprise with an industrial park, affordable housing, and a shipping and warehouse hub for companies like Amazon and UPS. And, of course, a large electrical charging station for the coming of electrical powered truck trucks. After all, it’s the 21st Century. Not the 19th.

2. Reimagine Dunsmuir as an art and music town, with music festivals, art shows, and cutting edge public art (much like San Francisco). We have so much art and music talent residing in Siskiyou County. We just need to get the politicians off their duffs and get them to support a reimagined Dunsmuir and get the town into the 21st Century. Let’s look at the wonderful opportunities our local artists can create for the town and it will blossom like a beautiful orchid. 

Q: In what ways could the city council support businesses through the COVID19 pandemic?

A: First of all, we need to ensure that all businesses are following safety procedures recommended by the CDC and Governor Newsom. I am doing that at the Cornerstone Café. If they need help to do so, like providing customers with free masks, the City should reallocate resources and provide them.

Second, we can suspend late fees and interest on utility rate payments, and other city fees, for residents and businesses, until the pandemic is over. 

Third, if needed, the city should expand the Dunsmuir Resource Center’s food bank. I note the growing media reports of “food insecurity” in California, with the cutoff of the $600 per week UI EDD benefit . Children, in particular, are at risk of malnourishment and hunger. Dunsmuir is a town of 1,600 people, yet we have nearly 400 fellow citizens at or below the poverty level. These citizens need our help and we should ensure that they get it. 

It’s fine for the city to get multimillion dollar grants to fix our dilapidated sewer system and repair Mott airfield’s runways, but that doesn’t help the here and now crisis of closed businesses, lost jobs  and hungry children. We need to reallocate our city resources to deal with the here and now! The current city leadership  doesn’t even address these issues. 

Q: Do you support the 1.5 cent sales tax to help shore up its budget or do you have other ideas?

A: No I do not support this very cruel new sales tax increase. It hits the people of Dunsmuir at the worst possible time and using the most regressive of taxes. It’s impossible for me to understand why the current leadership has proposed this. 

We have $1.5 million in current revenues. The leadership brags that they just got millions of dollars in grants to rehabilitate the sewer system and repair “the taxiways and runways” of the Mott Airport. The Airport  is hardly used and we have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars subsidizing over many years. So now they ask us to dig deep into our own nearly empty pockets to do what? This is an example of lazy thinking. 

They do have a $156K upcoming “budget deficit,” but that is only because they are not eliminating lower priority expenses, like the Airport subsidy and are failing to consolidate personnel. This deficit could be dealt with by a reallocation of resources and implementing the cannabis tax.  We should prioritize the people’s concerns over the City Hall bureaucrat’s unthinking priorities. Those are their priorities, not the people’s priorities.  

Q: In your opinion, what is the most pressing issue currently facing Dunsmuir?

A: A crisis in budget mismanagement. What has been shocking to me is to read the 2019 CA State Audit Report recently filed which cites, and I quote or paraphrase: The city has numerous deficiencies in internal budget controls. These deficiencies do not allow “management to properly perform their assigned functions” to detect financial misstatements throughout the year and thereby govern the city in a logical fashion. 

(Independent Auditors’ Report On Internal Controls Over FinancialReporting  ... Page 37, paragraphs 3, 4, and 5. )

I realize this is a serious issue to raise and allegation to make. And it’s actually very sad for me to do so because I know the individuals and city personnel involved. But the truth must be told. They have asked the citizens to raise taxes, when the State Audit has said the city leadership has failed in its basic function: to manage the people’s money wisely and protect the public at all times. This they have, I’m very sorry to say, failed to do. It’s time the people support a change of leadership to begin to restore decent governance to Dunsmuir. 

Q: What is your favorite thing about living in Dunsmuir

A: On the lighter side, it takes six minutes to get to work. And of course the Upper Sacramento River, Mt. Shasta  and our charming downtown. As I said, the town has great bones. But it needs expert help to blossom and be what it can be. I hope to provide some of that help. But I cannot do it alone. I need the many good friends I have come to love and know in our wonderful town help me to achieve for Dunsmuir what it can indeed become.